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Updated: 1 hour 46 min ago

China's communists 'are afraid of Our Lady of Fatima'

3 hours 40 min ago

"The state leadership will not accept any other outcome than the subjugation of the Church to the leadership of the Communist Party."

The retired bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, visiting the German Marian shrine at Kevelaer, spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on the situation of the Church in China.  

By Berthold Pelster

Over the last four decades, the People’s Republic of China has undergone enormous social change. The country has grown prodigiously to become an economic and technological world power. What role does communist ideology still play in this process today?

The leadership in China never really took communist ideology very seriously. Instead, Chinese communism is a form of unbridled imperialism. Rampant corruption, also within the party, attests to this. Everything is about power. Absolute obedience to state leadership is the only thing that counts. And through the opening upof the economic sector and growing affluence, this is all just getting worse. Wealth fuels corruption to ever greater levels.

Political observers say that the human rights situation has actually deteriorated under the current president, Xi Jinping. Do you agree?

In the beginning, I had high hopes because the president took action against corruption in the government and society. But it very quickly became evident that he was also only interested in power. People who are fighting for human rights are suppressed, persecuted, humiliated and convicted in propaganda trials overseen by his government.

Can you tell us something about the current status of the negotiations between the Chinese leadership and the Holy See?

Unfortunately, little is known about these talks. There are still a lot of other problems. I expect that the talks will still take a long time. In my opinion, the state leadership will not accept any other outcome than the subjugation of the Church to the leadership of the Communist Party. Bishops of the underground Church, for example, were forced to attend political training courses during Holy Week and could therefore not celebrate the liturgy with believers. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of reconciliation in his letter to the Catholics in China in 2007—for him, this largely meant spiritual reconciliation. But much still needs to be done!

That sounds very pessimistic. What do you expect will happen to Christianity in China?

Everything depends on whether we manage to live our faith authentically—without making a lot of compromises. There are Christians in China who bravely advocate for a better society. However, many of them are in prison! Should communism fall one day, then the Catholics should be among the first to build up a new China. However, that only works if Catholics have not already squandered their credibility beforehand by making lazy compromises with the communist leadership.

This month of May marks the centenary of the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima. The messages of Our Lady there warned about the godless ideology of communism. Are Catholics in China aware of these messages?

Of course! All of us have heard of the messages of Fatima. Even the communists! They make them very anxious. The communists are actually afraid of Our Lady of Fatima! The whole situation is becoming ludicrous: for example, the communists have nothing against you bringing pictures of Maria Immaculata or depictions of the miraculous image featuring “Mary, Help of Christians” into China from abroad.

Pictures of “Our Lady of Fatima,” on the other hand, are not allowed. Authorities consider the events in Fatima to be “anti-communist.” That is of course nothing but the truth!

The veneration of Mary under the title “Help of Christians” also holds special meaning for China: on its feast day, May 24, the Catholic Church holds a worldwide prayer day for the Church in China. Pope Benedict XVI introduced this day in 2007. What is the significance of this day of prayer?

The veneration of Our Lady under the title “Help of Christians” is deeply rooted all over China and has been so for a long time. This title not only refers to help for individual believers, but also to help for the Church as a whole. The chief danger in China today is materialistic atheism. Unfortunately, this day of prayer—which is valid for the Catholic Church all over the world—is far too little known. It is not taken seriously enough.

Our Lady of China; ACN photo

 

 

Iraq: 'Many Christians hope to return to their homes'

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 13:21

"Current estimates are that at least 10,000 IDP families remain in the greater Erbil region."

Christian IDPs in Erbil, Kurdish Iraq continue depend to depend on aid as they are awaiting the opportunity to return to their home on the Nineveh plains. They have been cared for by by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil—under the leadership of Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, Css—ever since ISIS invaded their homeland in the summer of 2014. Archbishop Warda, in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), takes stock.

By Maria Lozano

Please describe the context and the general situation of the Christian IDPs in Erbil now.

At present there are still more than 10,000 Christian IDP families in the greater Erbil region. While many still hold a hope to return to their homes in Nineveh, for the majority of them this remains a very uncertain time due to the continuing conflict in the region and lack of any stable security plan from the central government in Baghdad or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).  There is at present no meaningful plan or support for reconstruction in these towns from either the KRG or the Central Government in Baghdad. As such the IDPs currently in the greater Erbil region face the two main obstacles: lack of security and lack of civil infrastructure. In this environment, the majority of the IDPs are not willing to return yet to their former homes, especially in the Iraqi controlled sector of Nineveh, which includes Qaraqosh.

The situation in the Kurdish controlled sector, which includes the towns of Teleskof, Batnaya and Baqofa, is somewhat clearer as it pertains to security, and returns to those towns are beginning.  However, these returns are completely dependent on private sources of funding for reconstruction

Regarding the economic situation of the IDPs—what are their living conditions? What do people lack most?

The IDP families are nearly all unemployed, or employed on the books of the government but without any meaningful pay. Such employment as does exist is largely in the form of self-employment, selling various items on the street, in most cases without proper permits. Those with savings at the outset of the crisis have in most cases greatly depleted these funds in the past three years. We expect to see a rise over the coming months in terms of the need for financial and humanitarian assistance. The three most critical areas of need continue to be housing, food and medicine.

Could you please describe the situation of the children and of the youngsters?

Thanks to the heavy involvement of Church-based support, schools have been built to handle the needs of the IDP children at the early ages and elementary school. Significant assistance in terms of both teachers and facilities are still available at the High School level. However, college level access for the IDPs remains a crisis and many students have been forced to delay their college years. This problem is a specific issue for the IDPs as the universities in the KRG are generally using the Kurdish language for instruction, a language in which very few of the IDP students are fluent.  The recently established Catholic University of Erbil, which has English as its language of instruction, has sought to address this issue by focusing on IDP student scholarships, but additional funding is still needed to support this effort.

 What is the situation of the elderly people?

They are experiencing a true crisis. In many cases, elderly IDPs have been left behind by their children who have left the country.  In nearly all these cases the only support group for the elderly is the Church. The Archdiocese of Erbil has made repeated efforts to establish basic living facilities and proper care for the elderly, but meaningful support has not been found due to the emphasis being placed on the basic needs of the broader population. As many of these elderly individuals are now without family to support them, this crisis is expected to continue even after any return to Nineveh by the general population.

How may IDPs remain in Erbil?

The situation regarding IDPs remains fluid, but current estimates are that at least 10,000 IDP families remain in the greater Erbil region who are in need of food assistance, with well over half of these individuals being women, children, and the elderly.  Reliable statistics are not available regarding the numbers of sick due to lack of coordination between medical facilities, but anecdotal evidence from the clinics run by the Archdiocese of Erbil indicates high levels of chronic diseases, especially among the elderly, which are in most cases related to the stress and the difficult physical conditions that are part of their IDP status.

How are the IDPs in Erbil feeling at the moment, after the villages on the Nineveh plains have been liberated?

The feelings and disposition of the IDPs varies according to the town they are from and their economic condition.  Those IDPs from the towns in the Kurdish sector have greater optimism given the clarity of Church leadership and the security structure that exists there.  Those IDPs whose homes are in the Iraqi sector, which represents 70 percent of the total Christian IDP population, are generally in a very uncertain and fearful state of mind.  While their towns have technically been "liberated,” the political and security situations remain very dangerous and unclear. Despite the firm support of the local Church, many Christian IDPs continue to feel abandoned by both governments (within Iraq and abroad) and by major international aid organizations.

Are there many people traumatized?

The mental condition and traumatization of the IDPs is a crisis of its own.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is clearly evident in those that faced violence first-hand. Depression and anxiety are at extremely high levels among adults. Treatment is hampered by the lack of capacity of medical and psychological treatment, as well as by the cultural reluctance to admit to any sort of mental weakness. .

Yet, people’s faith by all accounts has remained very strong.

Without question the persecution which the IDPs have faced has made their faith stronger.  We see this every day.  Having had the very existence of their faith threatened with extinction, the people have come to value its importance in their lives in a much deeper way. The people’s highest hopes are for the welfare and safety of their children, as would be the case for parents anywhere. 

Since March 2016, ACN has been the only organization consistently providing help for the IDPs. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2014, ACN has provided a total of $27M in food aid and in the provision of housing and shelter.

Archbiishop  Warda inspects IDP food supplies; ACN photo

Catholic priest stabbed in Mexico Cathedral

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 08:39

Father Miguel �ngel Machorro, who was stabbed Monday evening, May 15, at the main altar in Mexico's Metropolitan cathedral, is hovering between life and death, according to a press release issued in the cathedral itself.

Speaking on behalf on the cathedral chapter, Father Ricardo Valenzuela, the senior sacristan and liturgical director of the cathedral, expressed his concern for the health of the priest and asked for the prayers of all the Catholic faithful. He explained that Father Machorro was close to the cathedral of Mexico City and involved in some of its liturgical ceremonies.

Father Valenzuela also announced that Holy Mass would continue to be celebrated at the normal times and that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop and Primate of Mexico, was currently in Rome. He will decide on the need to celebrate a special Mass of atonement on account of this sacrilegious attack. The Cardinal will be returning to Mexico in time to celebrate the Sunday Mass.

Dr. Armando Martínez, the president of the College of Catholic Lawyers, energetically condemned the attack and called for a full investigation and the rigorous application of the law. He confirmed that the attacker had been arrested by the federal police and was being dealt with by the public prosecutor, and he also thanked the Mexico City authorities for having transferred the wounded priest by helicopter to a private hospital, where he is currently being cared for.

Dr. Martínez explained that in recent years there had been almost 30 violent incursions during religious worship in the cathedral, most of them carried out by factional groups, as a result which increased levels of security had been introduced.

However, the police units assigned to the cathedral have been more focused on the security of the ordinary Catholic faithful and of the property itself.

Never before has there been a direct attack of this kind against any priest of the cathedral, nor indeed against the Cardinal, Norberto Rivera Carrera. This attack had taken everyone by surprise.

The authorities are currently investigating the incident, and consequently it has not yet been possible to give detailed answers to all of the questions asked by the press.

Extend a Retreat Center in Belarus

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:48

Will you help Father Pawlukiewicz complete this retreat center in Belarus so that more people can find new life in Christ?

The village of Ros in the Diocese of Grodno has been a special place for centuries. There is an image here of the Suffering Christ that has been revered for 400 years and which still draws many Catholic faithful seeking graces from God – and in many cases also receiving them. Many needs have been entrusted over the years to Christ, and many people have experienced healing of body or soul or gone away comforted in their cares. Among other things, many childless couples have come here, who have suffered for many years and now been granted the grace of finally becoming parents.

In recent years Ros has become a place of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the country. This is above all due to Father Czeslaw Pawlukiewicz, the charismatic parish priest, whose retreats here now attract thousands of people each year. There have been many conversions, many people seeking and finding help in their difficulties, many succeeding in shaking off their addiction to drugs or alcohol or the occult and growing in a living relationship with Jesus Christ. For many, this has been the beginning of a new life.

The Catholic Church is also involved in a state-run program intended to combat the high rate of suicide in the country. Through this inner renewal and the experience that God is truly working in their lives many people are now finding a way out of their despair and hopelessness.

Currently there are no proper accommodations in the town either for these pilgrims or for the people taking part in the retreats. At present, most have found accommodation in the houses of the local villagers. Now Father Pawlukiewicz has begun work on converting a building – a former school and later a library – into a retreat center.

ACN has already helped with $163,100 and has now promised a further $21,800 to enable the completion of the extensive renovation work.

Will you help Father Pawlukiewicz complete this retreat center in Belarus so that more people can find new life in Christ?


Code: 439-01-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Convert a Building into a Monastery in the Czech Republic

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:39

Will you give to help complete the work to convert a building into a monastery in the Czech Republic, helping to bring faith back to this formerly communist country? Thank you for any help you can give.

On May 17, 2017, Cardinal Miloslav Kardinal Vlk, the former Archbishop of Prague, would have celebrated his 85th birthday. He died just two months earlier, and just a few hours before his death, he whispered the words "Most beautiful King." When asked what he meant by this, he replied, "Jesus on the Cross." Those were his last words.

Embracing the Cross, and with it the Crucified One, were no empty words in his case. For many long years of his life, throughout the years of the communist persecution of the Church, he had to wait for the privilege of even being allowed to attend university, since as a young man he had refused to join the communist youth groups.

For 17 long years, after completing his secondary schooling, he had to wait for ordination to the priesthood, without ever knowing for sure if this day would ever arrive. Even after his ordination, and after serving as a parish priest and secretary to his bishop, he was banned for 11 years by the state from working as a priest.

During this time he earned his living as a window cleaner and as an archivist while practicing his priesthood in secret. Again and again he recalled how hard it had been for him to make this sacrifice. Yet, he was also able to say, afterwards, "I discovered that this cross did more for my salvation and that of others than if I had continued as the bishop's secretary during those years… that time as a window cleaner was the most blessed time of my life, and I understood that I was living my priesthood in all its fullness."

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time He may exalt you" (1 Peter 5:6). These words stayed with Miloslav Vlk like a leitmotiv in his life. He heard them first as a young man, when he felt the call to the priesthood, yet saw no possibility of achieving this goal. Then in 1994, when he was made a cardinal, he was shaken to hear these words once again in the letter of Saint Peter and realized how they had literally come true in his life.

On March 25, 2017, he was finally laid to rest in Prague Cathedral. Hundreds of bishops and priests from all over the world, and thousands of people from Prague and all over the Czech Republic were there to pay him their last respects. He was buried in the most important church in the Czech Republic, the place where the Bohemian kings had been crowned and also buried. But his only King was Christ the Crucified.

As his coffin was lowered into his tomb in the stone floor, the ancient hymn rang out in the packed cathedral: Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat ("Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules"). This is the King he saw when he whispered his last words, the King who allowed him throughout his life to share in his sufferings and his abandonment and who will now exalt him at the proper time.

The greatest wish of the Cardinal was to reawaken the love of Christ in the hearts of his people. After the years of communism this was a huge challenge. Cardinal Vlk was a lifelong friend of ACN, and the help our charity was able to give him in rebuilding the Church in his Archdiocese of Prague was repaid by him "in a different currency – that of prayer," as he again and again repeated to ACN.

There is still a great deal to do for the Church in his country today. Even now, many of the confiscated Church buildings have still not been returned by the state, and many of them are in a pitiful condition. Above all, it is the souls of the people that need to be rebuilt, for the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe today.

The good news, however, is that wherever people see the Catholic Faith truly being lived, many young people soon rediscover this Faith and seek baptism. New and living communities are being formed, with young families bringing their children up in the Faith and so laying the foundations for the Church of the future.

In Tuchomerice, a small town not far from Prague, the new Catholic community Chemin Neuf has set up a monastic center. It is a very active community and organizes meetings for young people, young adults and married couples, offers retreats, prayer groups and a Bible school. Every day Holy Mass is celebrated in the community, together with the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office. There is also a regular Eucharistic adoration. The center is also intended to be available to visiting groups, so that not only local people but also Catholics from other parts of the Archdiocese can take advantage of the facilities it offers.

Thanks to help from ACN they have already been able to complete the chapel and the refectory, plus more recently an additional 16 guestrooms. But the work is still far from finished. We are planning to help with $27,200.

Will you give to help complete the work to convert a building into a monastery in the Czech Republic, helping to bring faith back to this formerly communist country?

 


Code: 430-08-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

A Chapel for a Parish in Argentina

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:27

In recent years, Catholics have begun work on a new chapel and attached community center; it is an effort they make with great enthusiasm and at the cost of considerable sacrifice. But they are unable to complete it, since their funds have run out. Can you help?

The Diocese of Gregorio de Laferrere in Argentina is still very young. Established only in the year 2000, it lies in the area of greater Buenos Aires and close to 80% of its 1.2 million population are Catholics. It is also one of the poorest dioceses in the country and faces many challenges. Not only are the people poor, the school dropout rate is very high, as is the rate of teenage pregnancy, and violence is increasing. There are also extreme levels of pollution and frequent floods which make life all the more difficult in the region.

Thankfully, many local people are still very generous to those who have still less than they do and are wonderfully willing to share the little they have. But there is great need of pastoral care here, especially in the rundown suburbs and above all among young people. The Church needs to be more visibly present here in order to help people live their lives with dignity and put the future of their families on solid footing. Unless they are profoundly rooted Christian values, many young people run the risk of going off the rails.

In some parts of the diocese, many Catholic faithful have to travel 5 or 6 miles to get to church. Bishop Gabriel Bernardo Barba wants to improve the situation and is planning, little by little, to build more chapels locally. For example, there is one very lively community in the Parish of Christ the Worker which runs prayer groups, children's groups, youth groups, catechetical sessions for adults, a Caritas office, a children's mission, Scout groups and marriage and family preparation classes.

It is a very large parish, and so there is a need for additional, smaller chapels in remoter areas so that Catholic faithful who live there can more easily attend Holy Mass, Eucharistic adoration and various catechetical sessions. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we have already helped twice for the construction of additional chapels, with $8,700 each time.

In recent years, Catholics in a third area have begun work on a new chapel and attached community center; it is an effort they make with great enthusiasm and at the cost of considerable sacrifice. But they are unable to complete it, since their funds have run out.

We have promised to help once again, with $8,700 so that the building work can at last be completed and the chapel finally consecrated.

Will you give to help us keep our promise to support the building of this new chapel in one of the poorest dioceses in Argentina?

 

Code: 209-01-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Help for the Training of 46 Seminarians in Ecuador

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:07

The seminary rector has turned to us once again for help to support the training of these seminarians for the current academic year. Can you aid in their formation?

During the 36 years of its existence, the major seminary in the Diocese of Ibarra in northern Ecuador has already produced 172 priests. Now, another 46 young men are studying at the seminary, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Hope. They, too, hope one day to be able to serve as priests at the altar of the Lord.

These future priests not only train at the seminary and at the local university, but are encouraged from the beginning to engage in pastoral work in the parishes and so get to know the needs of the ordinary people. Already in the first year of their studies they regularly visit homes for the elderly and the children’s homes, as well as prisons.

At the same time, these seminarians help in the parishes in the youth and family apostolate, train the altar servers and give catechetical instruction. Every year they also visit the parishes of the diocese on a "Seminary Open Day" and engage with any young people who might also be contemplating serving God one day as priests.

These meetings and other activities represent a precious contribution to the vocations apostolate in the diocese, since the personal testimony of the seminarians themselves is an excellent way of encouraging other young people to think about their own future vocation and perhaps find the courage to pursue it.

The people of the Diocese of Ibarra are 90% Catholic and deeply rooted in their faith and Catholic traditions. The parishes regularly provide food for the seminary and support it with whatever the local people can spare. Of course this support is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of training the seminarians who, in addition to their board and lodging, also need books and teaching materials, help with travel costs into the parishes, medical care, clothing, electricity and so much more besides.

The seminary rector has turned to us once again for help, as so often in the past, and we have promised $18,200 to support the training of these 46 seminarians for the current academic year. 

Will you give to support the training of these future priests in Ecuador? We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.



Code: 217-02-79

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Construct a Church for a Parish in the Philippines where Christians are a Minority

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:55

The parish church has stood for 40 years, but over the course of time it has become run down and far too small for the growing Catholic community. There is an urgent need for a new and larger church. Can you help?

The island of Basilan in the southern Philippines is one of the few places in the country where Muslims are the majority, making up close to two thirds of the population. It is part of the Mindanao group of islands, a region where the Islamist terrorists of the Abu-Sayaf group have been trying to establish a breakaway "Islamic State of Mindanao." Though they describe themselves as "Islamic fighters," they are regarded by the international community and by the rest of the Filipino population as terrorists and criminals. They continue to try to spread fear and division through bombings and abductions.

The Parish of Saint Anthony in Lamitan City is a vigorous and thriving parish, despite these circumstances. There is a regular Sunday congregation of 700 Catholic faithful. The parish church has stood here for 40 years, but over the course of time it has become increasingly decrepit and far too small for the growing Catholic community. There is an urgent need for a new and larger church, but the parish is too poor to raise the funds for such a project.

Bishop Martin Jumoad supports this project, which is dear to his heart. There is an obvious need for the church, and at the same time it will be a powerful sign of the presence and identity of the Catholics in this town.

The bishop wrote to us, saying, "We would like to build a solid and permanent church that will convey a message of stability and solidarity and of the strong faith of the people of God. The Muslims respect people who are united and strong and who live a life of prayer. A solid church will earn their respect and will hopefully also help to bring peace to our land."

ACN is helping with a contribution of $32,600.

Will you give to construct this church in a region of the Philippines where Christians are a minority?

 


Code: 329-01-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Build a Center for the Care and Formation of Priests in Sudan

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:46

Will you help these priests in Sudan have access to a place where they can recover and renew their strength for their heroic work of service in their troubled country? May God bless you.

The Catholic priests of Sudan know all too well what suffering is. Their knowledge comes not from reading the newspaper or watching television, but directly and personally, as part of the bloody Way of the Cross of the Catholic Church in Sudan. The younger priests grew up during the long civil war and completed their studies in the most difficult of circumstances. An entire generation has known practically nothing else but violence, persecution and poverty. The almost 25 years of civil war, which led to the split with the new country of South Sudan, have still left many open wounds that mark the people of the country, here in the North.

The priests are there for their suffering people in every possible way – providing pastoral care, material support, education and much more besides – and all in the knowledge that there are far too few of them to cope with the ocean of need that surrounds them. Their own souls are just as wounded as those of their people, and they know their hands are empty because they, too. have nothing. Yet, God had called them to be shepherds to his suffering flock.

The average age of the priests in the 27 parishes that make up the Archdiocese of Khartoum is just 40. Given the numerous difficulties and immediate challenges they face, few of them have ever had the opportunity, after their initial formation in the seminary, to take stock, pause for breath, refresh themselves spiritually or continue their own spiritual and pastoral formation.

To address this situation, the Archdiocese has now furnished a house that will be open to these priests whenever they need to seek counsel or help, share their problems with their fellow priests or pursue their own ongoing priestly formation. It will also be a place for priests suffering from burnout or sickness, a place of healing and recovery.

It is intended that in future it will be open to Catholic priests from all over the country, and also from neighboring South Sudan. For the moment there is not much space available, but the activities are already underway. Now the plan is to extend the house.

ACN’s donors have already helped with $11,300, and we are now giving a further aid package of $32,600, so that the house can soon be ready to accommodate as many priests as possible.

Will you give to help these priests in Sudan have access to a place where they can recover and renew their strength for their heroic work of service in their troubled country?

We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.


Code: 150-08-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Two Classrooms for Catechetical Instruction in Togo

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:18

In the Parish of Saint Paul in Dapaong alone there are 1,000 catechumens: the catechism classes are filled to overflowing with young people and adults! Will you help to provide additional classrooms?

The Diocese of Dapaong in Togo, a West African country with a diverse population of 6.3 million, is in one of the poorest regions of the country. The region is in the far north of the country, bordering the Sahel zone, and the desert is encroaching ever further into this area, making agriculture and the survival of the people increasingly difficult. Over 80% of the people live on less than $16 a month, and 13% of them live on less than $11.

The population of the region is a very youthful one, however, with 70% aged under 21. Many are drawn to Christianity and are seeking baptism. The Good News of Christ is attracting a great many former adherents of traditional African religions. In the Parish of Saint Paul in Dapaong alone there are no fewer than 1,000 catechumens: the catechism classes are filled to overflowing with young people and adults!

The parish priest, Father Joan Sole Ribas is delighted at the blossoming life of his parish, but at the same time it is a huge challenge for him to cope with instructing so many catechumens. There are simply no premises available for teaching them.

Now he wants to build three classrooms for this catechetical work. These classrooms will also serve as evening schools for teaching literacy to adults and young people, and as a musical school as well. The parish can just about cover the cost of one such classroom, but they need help for the other two. We have promised him $16,300.

Will you help us fulfill this promise to Father Ribas so that he can continue to bring the Gospel to the people of this region of Togo that is poor but flourishing in faith?

 

 

 Code: 156-01-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Cardinal sounds alarm in Venezuela

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 11:55

"The people face reprisals when they do not agree with the official politics or if they hold a different opinion: threats, fines, prison sentences, deportation."

By Maria Lozano

NEW YORK—Amidst mounting and increasingly violent clashes between protestors and supporters of the government, the Venezuelan bishops have called on all citizens of their country  to “repudiate each and every violent statement and to respect the rights of all citizens.” Earlier this month, the bishops’ conference also denounced the attempt by socialist President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice to dissolve the National Assembly, the country’s opposition-led Congress. That move has since been rescinded.

The prelates called on the government to urgently address the nation’s grave and growing lack of “food, medicine, freedom, personal and legal safety as well as peace.”

Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras of Mérida, honorary chairman of the bishops’ conference, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the Venezuelan Church is prepared to speak up on behalf of citizens who oppose the policies of the government. He said:  “the people face reprisals when they do not agree with the official politics or if they hold a different opinion: threats, fines, prison sentences, deportation.”

He continued: “It is all about pushing through a system in which nothing other than the official opinion counts. When a demonstration is planned, a parallel event is immediately organized, on the same day and at the same time. It is all about showing who is more powerful.”

He added: “The 18 years of the Chávez government and then Maduro are also the result of the deterioration that occurred during the years preceding them. Venezuela was able to grow thanks to oil. The country grew both economically and in its infrastructure. But the accelerated growth also led the governing class to forget the people. After all, this is a gift of nature and not the result of personal hard work. The government did a lot of things, but they forgot the people.”

Cardinal Porras, who serves as the director of Caritas Venezuela, thanks the international community for the support it has provided. However, inside the country, he comes up “against a wall, because it is very difficult to ensure that the aid” reaches those who need it most. Because we come up against obstacles.”

The media plays an equally important role in the internal conflict. The prelate explained: “If I say, ‘[a particular] medicine is not available here,’ a photograph of the medicine immediately appears. It is then said: ‘that is not true, look at this.’ And this happens with everything, with food, with domestic security, etc.”

The government has so far refused to engage in any kind of genuine dialogue with the opposition or with Church leadership, said the cardinal, who called on the international community “to try to get real and timely information so as not to be taken in by lies.” He also asked for prayers and support from the Church around the world, saying: “In Venezuela, we need prayer as a source of inner strength that prevents us from being robbed of hope and joy. Difficulties are there to be overcome and not to make us cry.”

The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has called for day of prayer on May 21, 2017, “to end violence and state oppression as well as to search for ways of communication and reconciliation.”

'To demonstrate is a right, not a crime;' ACN photo

 

Consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima, Aid to the Church in Need turns 70

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 11:08

AId to the Church in Need, taking its cue from the messages at Fatima, has "grown into a global spiritual movement."

By Eva-Maria Kolmann

NEW YORK—The May 13, 2017 canonization by Pope Francis of two Portuguese shepherds to whom Our Lady appeared 100 years ago at Fatima has particular resonance for international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, ACN was consecrated 50 years ago to Our Lady of Fatima. With the Pope coming to Fatima to canonize them, Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco will be the youngest non-martyrs proclaimed saints in the history of the Church.

Our Lady of Fatima certainly has worked wonders for ACN. George Marlin, chairman of ACNUSA, explained: “From the very beginning, this charity has been a miracle: it has given countless people the strength to forgive and to show unconditional magnanimity. The organization grew out of a belief in Jesus Christ as well as the staunch conviction that the gospel holds the truth.

"Today, our charity continues to bear witness to the living God as hundreds of thousands of people all over the world support our brothers and sisters in the faith in His name.”

ACN was founded in 1947 by the Dutch Premonstratensian priest Father Werenfried van Straaten. From the very beginning, the focus was on fostering reconciliation as well as bringing about the love of one’s enemies as called for in the Gospel. Tellingly, the charity began as an aid campaign to help German refugees after World War II, was launched in Belgium and the Netherlands, whose populations had suffered greatly under German occupation.

The aid for the “enemies of yesterday” was thus not only intended to alleviate the immediate distress of the people, but also to overcome hatred, foster reconciliation in a ravaged and hostile Europe—and at the same time become a “school of love” for those who bestowed the aid.

Growing rapidly, ACN extended its activities to encompass the countries behind the Iron Curtain as well as those in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over time, ACN began to focus its efforts on supporting the pastoral work of the Catholic Church in countries and regions where the faithful suffered various forms of discrimination and persecution, or where local Churches lacked the necessary means to fulfil their mission.

Next to providing material aid, one of ACN’s primary concerns was giving the persecuted “Church of Silence” a voice.

The work of ACN is closely linked with the message of Fatima and the organization is organizing various holding various campaigns to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima. The festivities will culminate with a large international pilgrimage of ACN officials and donors to the Portuguese shrine in September 2017.

Father Martin Barta, ACN’s international ecclesiastical assistant, explains that the founding of the charity should be considered within the context of the October revolution and the appearances at Fatima, during which Our Lady warned of the perils of communism.

Father Barta said that ACN, taking its cue from the messages at Fatima, has “grown into a global spiritual movement” that calls for a “rebellion of the heart”—a “revolution” not based on the “false myths of godless communism or humanistic relativism, but on the reality of the cross of Jesus Christ, His Pierced Heart.” He added: in the end [Our Lady of Fatima’s] Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

ACN was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima because Father van Straaten considered the foundation of the charity to be a response to the message of Fatima, which had warned of “total rebellion against God.” That threat first occurred in the October Revolution in Russia, which initiated persecution of the Church of unmatched severity; and its legacy still continues today in various forms throughout the world.

The work of ACN is an immediate answer to the Mother of God’s call conversion and a turning toward God, suggests Father Barta, adding that: “As a pontifical foundation, we want to intensify our efforts in helping the Church carry the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary all over the world.”

Today, ACN supports more than 5,000 projects each year in more 140 countries, with funds raised through the work of 23 national offices. Currently, ACN’s prime focus is on helping persecuted and threatened Christians in the Middle East and preventing the purging of Christian communities from the cradle of Christianity. Another major objective is to support the young and vigorous, but materially poor Church in Africa.

Father van Straaten outside the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Fatima, Portugal; ACN photo

Post-ISIS rebuilding begins on Nineveh plane, Iraq's ancient Christian heartland

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 10:35

"A historic and unrepeatable occasion for the future of Christianity in Iraq."

By Daniele Piccini

NEW YORK—On May 8, 2017, work will begin on the rebuilding of first 100 Christian homes on the Nineveh plane, a region devastated by ISIS. To mark the occasion, ceremonies will take place in the Christian tows of Bartella, Karamless and Qaraqosh, to inaugurate an initiative that aims to repair and rebuild up to 13,000 homes in Iraq’s ancient Christian heartland.

Father Andrzej Halemba, the head of the Middle East desk for international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)—which is financing the reconstruction of the 100 homes—described the launch of Nineveh plain rebuilding effort as “a historic and unrepeatable occasion for the future of Christianity in Iraq.”

During the ceremonies, each of the owners of the 100 homes will be presented with olive trees, to be planted close to their homes as symbols of peace and reconciliation. In attendance will be members of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), which includes representatives of the three main Christian Churches in the region, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church.

The committee was set up earlier this year in order to plan and supervise the reconstruction program that is estimated to cost more than $250M. In a survey conducted by ACN late winter, some 40 percent of the Christian families—representing some 12,000 men, women and children, who fled the Nineveh plane in the summer of 2014, when ISIS captured the region—have indicated that they wish to return to their former homes.

Father Halemba said: “By starting work on these first three reconstruction sites, we are hoping to send a clear signal to the thousands of Christian families who were driven from their homes and who have been living in makeshift conditions in Erbil and other towns of Iraqi Kurdistan.” 

He continued: “This is a decisive historical moment. If we now miss the opportunity to help the Christians return to their homes on the Nineveh plane, these families might well decide to leave Iraq forever. That would be an enormous tragedy.

“The presence of the Christians in this region is of vital importance, and not only historically, but also politically and culturally. The Christians represent a bridge of peace between the various Muslim groups that are fighting each other; Christians make a crucial contribution to the educational system and are respected by all moderate Muslims.”

By the end of June 2017, ACN—the only international organization to consistently support the Christian exiles from the Nineveh plain since its capture by ISIS—will have spent well over $35M in supporting the 12,000 Christian Internally Displaced People in Kurdistan. Aid has come in the form of monthly food aid, money for rent, medical help, the construction of schools, and the support of displaced clergy and women religious.

The logo of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee

Nigerian bishop suspects government-level support of new wave of Islamist terror

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 13:36

"it is suspected that their kin in government and the military are able to supply these arms to them."

By Murcadha O'Flaherty und John Pontifex 

NEW YORK—A Roman Catholic bishop has accused authorities in Nigeria of clandestinely supplying weapons to an Islamist terrorist network, charging that the organization has infiltrated federal and state governments.

Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan, Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the government has done little or nothing to stem “a wave of terror” by Islamist Fulani herdsmen targeting Christians and others—deadly violence, which, he added, has claimed some 1,000 lives in the past year.

The bishop made his comments in the wake of an April 15 attack by Fulani herdsmen, who assaulted Catholics gathering for an Easter Vigil service outside a church in Asso village, near Kaduna. Twelve people were killed, 10 of them Catholics.

Describing the Fulani extremists as a “sister organization” to terror group Boko Haram, Bishop Bagobiri reported that no arrests have been made so far. He said: “Given the sophisticated nature of the weapons used in the [attack], it is suspected that their kin in government and the military are able to supply these arms to them.”

He continued: “Fulanis are in charge of customs, immigration and ministry of internal affairs in Nigeria today. Therefore it is easy to bring dangerous weapons across our borders with no one to prevent this. When weapons are intercepted, they are often turned over to the police and other security agencies and nothing will be heard about such weapons again.

“Again, government at both the state and federal level is headed by Fulanis who seem to be more sympathetic to the aggressors and killers than to the vulnerable victims.”

In his homily during the funeral Mass for some of the victims of the April 15 attack, the bishop said: “The Fulani herdsmen terrorists and their sister terrorist organizations are operating in the world today. This is exactly what the Fulani jihadists are doing today in southern Kaduna, the middle belt region and now with incursions into both the south-east and south-west of Nigeria.”

The bishop noted that the Fulani attackers had the use of a getaway vehicle and “sophisticated weapons” to kill the Christians who were gathering to pray. He added: “We can see that there is a well-hatched and heavily-funded program of systematic elimination.”

The bishop also called on the Nigerian government to take action against alleged vote gerrymandering to favor Islamic candidates at the expense of Christian interests in local elections. He called on media “to find a way to draw the world’s attention to this menace of the Fulani Herdsmen’s terrorist activities.”

Three victims of the Asso attack; ACN photo

 

 

Remains of abducted Syrian Christians are finally laid to rest

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 10:52

"Our martyrs gave up their lives for the love of their God and Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross and came back to life for us."

By ACN staff

NEW YORK—The remains of five Christians abducted by jihadist rebels four years ago from the Christian town of Maaloula have at last been laid to rest in their home town. A solemn ceremony took place April 25, 2017.

Earlier that day, a funeral Mass was said in a Damascus suburb by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III. Sources in the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the remains of five bodies were discovered three months ago in a cave in the Lebanese region of Irsal, which borders on Syria.

DNA tests confirmed that the five bodies belonged to five of the six Christians who had been abducted on Sept. 7, 2013 by Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the rebel factions involved in the Syrian conflict. The sixth captive is still missing. Four of the five belonged to the Melkite Church and one to the Greek Orthodox Church. Their names are Ghassan Shanis, Dawoud Milaneh, Chadi Taalab, Atef Kalloumeh and Jihad Taalab, The sixth abductee is Moussa Shanis.

In his homily, Patriarch Gregory III Laham said: “There is no greater love than to give oneself for his loved ones! Jesus Christ gave up his life for us; our martyrs gave up their lives for the love of their God and Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross and came back to life for us.”

FatherToufic Eid, the parish priest of Maaloula, described the calm the funeral cortège from Damascus to Maaloula: “In the Syrian popular tradition the people sing and shout to express their sorrow, but on this occasion the mourners refrained from doing; instead a profound, respectful and painful silence accompanied the coffins as they were carried on the shoulders of family members and friends.”

Maaloula, one of the last communities in the world where Aramaic is still spoken as the main language, is some 40 miles from Damascus. Between September 2013 and April 2014 the town was besieged, attacked and finally captured and occupied by rebel Syrian factions.

Father Toufic reflected: “How to help people to forgive? Forgiveness is an integral part of our faith, yet it is so difficult. It takes time. And I tell them that it is not for the good of others, for the good of the other person. We have to walk the path of forgiveness for our own good, for our relationship with God. We have to forgive, because if we do not, we make a pact with evil, our heart fills with hatred and becomes blinded. Evil seeks to prevail within our hearts, and we have to fight against this.”

For six years now a bitter conflict has been devastating Syria. Some 6.3 million have been displaced and 13.5 million people are now dependent on humanitarian aid. This is roughly two thirds of the country’s population. In addition, close 5 million people are officially registered as refugees in neighbouring countries. Many of the younger children have known nothing but war and exile from their homes.

ACN is helping 1,500 refugee families living in rural areas surrounding Damascus with a monthly food packet and other basic necessities for the next three months, at a cost of approx. $42 per family per month.

 Patriarch Gregorius III leads funeral Mass procession; ACN photo

Help for the Wounded and for Families of the Victims of the Terror Attack in Pakistan

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 08:20

Success Story

In March 2015, there was an appalling suicide attack on St. John’s Church in Youhanabad, in which 20 people were killed and a further 80 wounded. Thanks to the generosity of our donors who reached out to help, $21,200 has gone to help the victims of the attack as they continue their recovery from this horrific event. The families are all poor, and many lost their main breadwinner or now have to pay for expensive medical treatment. Your help has enabled the purchase of medicine, food and other essentials and so has eased some of the most immediate practical burdens.

The fact that the toll of victims was not even higher was due above all to the courageous actions of one man, 20-year-old Akash Bashir, who had volunteered for sentry duty outside the church. He spotted the suicide bomber, who was wearing an explosive belt underneath his clothing, before he had the chance to enter the church, and managed to wrestle him to the ground. The attacker detonated his suicide belt, killing himself and young Akash instantly, but without being able to get into the church.

Young Akash undoubtedly saved numerous lives, for there were 600 people inside the church, and his family was also among those we were able to help, thanks to the kindness of our benefactors. His parish priest, Father Francis Gulzar said, “Words cannot describe the sorrow we feel at the loss of this hero and martyr. Thousands of people came to his funeral, to pay their last respects to him and to all who died in this attack.”

Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore has expressed his gratitude for this aid and paid tribute to our work: “ACN supports us in our difficulties with prayers and good words; it helps the victims who are in need of mercy, it helps us in many ways with works of mercy and it thereby also helps us to help others to be merciful.”

“ACN is not only an aid agency, but a sort of movement that encourages people to be merciful, to trust and to pray.”


Code: 328-01-59

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A Minibus for a Catholic Parish in Egypt

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 08:10

Success Story

The Catholic Parish of Minya in Egypt is still young. It was only in 2012 that the local authorities finally granted a building permit for a church in a new suburb of the city. It is the only Catholic Church for the town itself and for the surrounding area. The parish covers a wide area of over 460 square miles, with many of the Catholic faithful living a long way from the church. This has been a major problem in the past, since public transportation in Egypt is not well developed and very expensive, and the cost of an entire family regularly attending Mass can be time-consuming and a heavy drain on the household budget.

In situations such as these, it is not unusual for parishes to have their own minibus so that they can ferry the faithful to church and back. The young parish of Minya could not afford to buy a vehicle, and so the parish priest turned to ACN to help. Otherwise it is often not possible for many of the parishioners – especially the elderly, children, women and those with physical handicaps or health problems – to get to church, whether to attend Mass or to receive catechetical sessions or for other reasons.

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help the parish with a contribution of $31,800, so that they could purchase a minibus. The parishioners each contribute a small amount in return for this service – whatever they can afford – as a contribution towards the running and maintenance costs. At the same time, the bus serves as a school bus for the children from the remoter villages.

The Catholic faithful are delighted and ask us to convey their heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors!

 

Code: 143-01-29

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Help Expand a Convent in Lithuania with an Evangelization Center for Young People

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:24

Will you give to help expand this convent in Lithuania so that these Sisters can help young people better understand and encounter the saving love of God in their lives? You will forever be remembered in their grateful prayers.

“The Spirit of God encourages us to become instruments of the saving love of God, especially by helping people to encounter God in their own lives.” These are the words of Marija Rusteikaitė, foundress of the Sisters of Divine Providence, and they are a guiding principle as the Sisters go out to do God’s work.

Five years ago, the Sisters of Divine Providence established a convent in the town of Utena, a regional industrial center in the north-east of the country which has a number of schools and universities, and consequently a large population of young people. There are two Catholic parishes here, both of which offer a range of activities for young people.

The Sisters were saddened to discover that many young people still see God as someone who above all scrutinizes and punishes and have never come to know him as a loving Father who forgives, offers hope and loves them as they are. They also found that many Catholics, who had heard something of the Gospel message through baptisms, First Communions, weddings or funerals, were still struggling to answer basic questions such as these: “Aren’t all religions equal?” “Can a modern, educated person really also be sincerely a Catholic?” “Can the Catholic faith really be reconciled with the findings of science and modern life?” The Sisters were often confronted with statements like, “I believe that Jesus was a good and wise man, but I don’t believe He was God.”

For six months, the Sisters went into the schools in order to help the young people find answers to these questions. This program was so well received that the Sisters began to perceive that the tremendous demand for answers was a sign from God, so they decided to establish an evangelization center in their convent.

Now they want to give the opportunity to young people and young adults to spend some time, even a few days, in this evangelization center, taking part in days of recollection and similar events. They need to be able to accommodate groups of up to 20 young people at a time.

There will be spiritual exercises, talks and discussions based around the Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II, weekend meetings for vocation discernment, individual counselling and accompaniment of young people and adults, and programs for women traumatized by abortion. The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed in the chapel throughout this time and the Sisters and young people will take turns in adoration. It will also be open to any Catholics from outside.

To achieve this end, some adaptation and extension work to the convent will be necessary. ACN has promised to help with a contribution of $15,900.

Will you give to help expand this convent in Lithuania so that these Sisters can help young people better understand and encounter the saving love of God in their lives?


Code: 436-05-19

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

A Boat for Pastoral Work in the Amazon Region of Brazil

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:18

This community urgently needs a new boat, made of more durable materials, which will better withstand the difficult conditions and enable them to carry out their valuable work of service more quickly and safely. Can you help?

The Catholic community “Mar a Dentro” (“Out into the deep”) runs a pastoral center in the city of Belem in northern Brazil. There they hold prayer meetings, Eucharistic adoration, prepare young people for confirmation and help young couples for the sacrament of matrimony. They also care for close to 60 children and provide psychological support and counseling.

The members of this community do not merely confine themselves to the city. Faithful to the words of Jesus to Peter: “Duc in Altum,”  “Put out into the deep” (Lk. 5:4) – as the name of their community suggests – they have for nine years now also been ministering to the people living in the jungle on the riverside and the river islands in the Amazon region of northern Brazil. Villages that can only be reached by boat.

Through their apostolate the community is able to guarantee a continuing presence of the Catholic Church in this inaccessible region. The people living in these villages need help in every respect – pastoral care, spiritual and material support, counseling, among other needs. In this way the community is helping more than 400 families to grow in their faith, come to a better understanding of the Gospel message and to play a more active role in the life of the Church.

The community is also helping the people in their social and other needs and providing them with vital basic necessities. There are roughly a hundred volunteers, working in turns in this apostolate, which literally takes them to the margins of society. Many of them are able to bring their daily professional experience to bear for the benefit of the needy in these communities.

Until now the community has only had an old wooden boat available, and it is already in a poor state of repair. They urgently need a new boat, made of more durable materials, which will better withstand the difficult conditions and enable them to carry out this work of service more quickly and safely; they will then also be able to visit the riverside settlements more frequently.

We are planning to give $35,800, so that they can purchase a new, aluminum hulled boat.

Will you help us keep our promise to this Catholic community so that they can use their new boat to better carry out their pastoral work in the Amazon region of Brazil?

Code: 212-07-29

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Expand Pastoral Outreach for a Parish in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:08

Will you help us fulfill our promise to the late Bishop Astigarraga to ensure that religious Sisters can continue their pastoral outreach in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru?

Forty five years ago, Sister Maria Luisa Maduell left everything in order to follow Christ in the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus. It was a vocation that took her from Spain to deep into the Amazon region of eastern Peru in the Apostolic Vicariate of Yurimaguas, a region largely covered by rainforest. She believes that it was Providence that sent her to the indigenous peoples of the rainforest.

The living conditions of the indigenous there are primitive and the people are very poor. Their simple huts are roofed with palm leaves and most of the small riverside settlements are accessible only by boat. There are no roads and the only medical and educational help they receive comes from the missionaries. The women cook their simple meals on open wood fires and grow a few basic vegetables in little garden plots. Their basic diet consists of yucca, plantain bananas and occasionally a little fish. “As a religious, I often sit with the women and cook alongside them. It is important to be close to the people, simply to be with them,” explains Sister Maria Luisa.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Yurimaguas covers a vast area of some 27,000 square miles. The Catholic faithful are thinly scattered across this area and there are far too few priests. Sister Maria Luisa works in the Parish of Saint Thomas, or Santo Tomàs del Rio Paranapura, providing all the pastoral care, since at the present time there is no priest here. She has two other Sisters and a few lay helpers to support her.

The lay helpers in this work of evangelization are themselves only simple peasants, but Sister Maria Luisa speaks of them with enormous admiration: “They have only a minimal formal education, and yet in their own way they are theologians, mystics, people of great faith and above all of unbelievable generosity,” she says.

Every month, each of them visits the people in the area assigned to him and prays with them, helping them to understand the Gospel message and grow in faith and in love for Jesus Christ. In this way they manage to visit three quarters of their vast parish area each month.

Bishop José Luis Astigarraga, who sadly died in January 2017, was delighted at their commitment and spoke of a “truly missionary undertaking.” He had been bishop of Yurimaguas since 1991 and was for many years a friend of ACN.

Thanks to the continuing and faithful support of our benefactors, we were able to help him regularly and generously. Only shortly before his death he again thanked us and all our benefactors for the help they have given for his apostolic vicariate over the years.

It was his cherished wish that the activities in the Parish of Saint Thomas on the Rio Paranapura not only be continued but be intensified, and he wrote to us saying, “I not only approve this project but want to see it go further.” He urged us to support Sister Maria Luisa and her helpers by providing catechetical material, training up more lay helpers and giving further in-service training to those already involved in this work, and also so that they could take part in retreat days.

We are delighted to report that we will fulfill one of the last wishes of the late bishop and are planning to support the project with $15,900.

Will you help us fulfill this promise to Bishop Astigarraga to ensure Sisters like Sister Maria Luisa can continued their pastoral outreach in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru?

We are sure they will gratefully remember you in their prayers.


Code: 234-01-49

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

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